Attending the inauguration of Barack Obama was a peak life experience for 29 Skaneateles High School students and eight chaperones. It was even more heightened, perhaps, because they were basking in their own triumph as they stood among the million-plus people who were celebrating a historical triumph for the country.
They had walked since dawn with hundreds of thousands, shoulder to shoulder on car-less four lane highways, to reach the site. And inside of themselves that day, they carried the knowledge that they had just won first place in the Heritage Inaugural Music Festival, which they had attended over the weekend just outside Washington, D.C.
Out of 30 orchestras and 110 musical groups from across the country, they had received the highest overall score, which also earned them a specialty award called the Adjudicator's Award. They have won a special invitation to perform in either Kennedy Center, Orchestra Hall in Chicago or Severstrom Hall in Los Angeles.
"It is wonderful to be asked. Whether or not we can honor the invitation will depend on funding," said orchestra teacher Karen Veverka, who called the entire four days "a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
The excitement and joy of it all was still spilling out as they gathered back in school on Wednesday morning, tired from a four-day adventure and from getting home about 11 p.m. Tuesday.
They sat in the orchestra room with Veverka and listened to a recording of their own performance. They could hear the remarks from judges as they commented during the performance, saying things like "Good, warm sound," "Good use of the bow," "Very nice dynamics."
Had they expected to win?
"I could tell from the rehearsal that this was going to be the most awesome ever," said Marika Klosowski, a violinist. "It sounded awesome."
Daniel Lemp agreed. "I went in there really confident."